Snail Mail, Lent and Chocolate

I will not be sad to see the cold go away.

I will not be sad to see the cold go away.

Miles run yesterday: 6

Temperature outside, with rain (my least favorite weather): 36

Bags of Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs almost gone: 1

Lent has the distinction of falling across another season: race season.

Two years ago, I was training and running my first marathon. Last year, I ran another half-marathon.

But also, there was the annual giving up of something, a skill set I am not entirely equipped to handle. And I was very, very hungry.

The year I trained for the marathon, I kept waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat something; my stomach felt cavernous at least 23 hours a day.

One year, I gave up wine. (Not advisable.)

The next couple of years, the kids and I gave up chocolate. My kids were even more rigid than I was (“Hmmm. I’m pretty sure hot chocolate is in liquid form, which may not count.” “Mo-om!”) We were not very nice people during those days. And people kept offering us chocolate.

So this year, my kids put their feet down. Been there, done that.

They decided to add something instead of taking it away, which I find much easier. Much easier.

Each week, they are writing old-fashioned, handwritten, snail-mail letters.

My daughter whips several out in about 15 minutes.

My son sits at the table with a pen and stares at the paper. “What can I write about?”

My daughter starts listing: “The Y pool, middle school, the movie we watched, how we’re excited about summer camp, the book we’re reading…”

“Okay, okay!” My son leans over the paper and laboriously writes two sentences. “Now what?”

Last Saturday morning, I looked over my daughter’s letters. One to a friend in the neighborhood right next to ours said, “Hey, do you want to come over and play on Sunday?”

I looked over at my daughter. “Um. You do know that Monday is a federal holiday, and the mail won’t run, so your friend won’t even get this until at least Tuesday, right?”

Expression: horrified. “What? I’m putting it in the mail today.”

“Right. And… well, it’s not like email. It doesn’t get there the second you close the mailbox door. There’s like… travel and processing time.”

Disbelief. Sighs. Stomping. Re-writing.

And then, as I beg the Saturday mail carrier to stop at the corner of our road because our letters aren’t ready, my own disbelief: my daughter does not know how to address an envelope.

The address: written across the top of the envelope, no name, just an address. Barely room for a stamp. We had to send it sans name because the mail carrier was experiencing his own disbelief: Dude, is this really a matter of national significance? Just give me the mail, and let’s call it a day.

Her friend’s family received the letter and wondered, “Why, it’s a mystery! A letter for our house!”

And when her friend got the letter, she told her mom, “I got a real letter, through the mail, handwritten and everything! I want to do that, too!”

Sometimes things work out the way you think they will, sometimes things happen that you don’t expect.

I thought the letter-writing would be a feel-good, easy-to-accomplish Lenten activity. But it turns out, it may be almost as difficult as giving up chocolate.

Well, almost.


38 thoughts on “Snail Mail, Lent and Chocolate

  1. I had to laugh at your hilariously entertaining story. As you described your son staring at a blank piece of paper, that was me for the umpteenth time staring at my keyboard trying to find some words or trying to figure out how to make the words meaningful to someone besides just me. You certainly accomplished that. Great post! 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Thanks, Mike. I think every writer experiences the blank page or screen at least sometimes. Almost every time I sit down to write, I think, “Hmmm. I have nothing to write about.” And then I do.

  2. Joyce says:

    Dudette, LOVE.
    You’re such a good mama.
    Good luck tomorrow!

  3. Daryl says:

    I’m very proud of their decision; such a positive way to embrace the lenten season.

  4. Hooray! Let’s all start a movement to save the U.S. Post Office! We adults all know that receiving a letter is so much more meaningful than an email, but kids still need to figure that out.

    By the way, I can empathize with your Lent denial. This year I gave up all sweets and bacon. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

  5. I was just like your son. Letters were just not in me. Tell him that one day he will write a story that will bring tears to his mother’s eyes, in a good way.

  6. Nice post! Two of our grandkids (ages 4 and 5) both know/use snail mail….

  7. I don’t think I’ve ever given anything up for Lent! It is exciting to receive a letter in the post with a handwritten envelope isn’t it, even as an adult, it’s so unusual (bar Christmas/birthday times). I have a friend who will send random cards and notes through the post, just maybe to thank me for having a lovely lunch with her, or something like that, and sometimes she’ll include a little surprise, like last week she sent me a card to say how much fun she had had doing something with us a few days earlier and she enclosed lottery ticket for the following Saturday’s draw! It always seems so thoughtful and I always mean to start doing things like that but never get around to it!

    • annewoodman says:

      Your friend sounds like a sweet, thoughtful person. I’m like you–I want to be that way but tend to forget or get busy. If you win the lottery, please remember those of us who have been following your blog. ; )

  8. kabe1 says:

    Letter-writing is a lost art! However, at least your kids are writing letters to other people…I have just had to post “letters” from my 3 year old daughter to herself and then feign surprise when they popped through our letterbox a couple of days later…an expensive game too – 3 first class stamps! She loved it though!!

  9. Melissa says:

    Nothing is as difficult as giving up chocolate except giving up wine….will not do those again…ever. Letter writing on the other hand, for us old folks, isn’t so difficult. I rather enjoy it. The boys, on the other hand, not so much. I love the whole “travel time” disbelief…classic

  10. Oh how I know that ‘always hungry’ marathon training feeling! Over time you learn to curb it though…protein! Oh and I carb loaded for my most recent marathon with those mini eggs…shared a small bag with my mama! haha!

  11. robincoyle says:

    I say give up running in 36 degree weather for Lent. Or, rather than mail your kids letters, run to the houses to deliver them.

  12. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a great idea. I love how your daughter didn’t grasp the concept of time with snail mail. Of course, I’m not sure who my sons would write to. All our relatives prefer electronic communication, including Grandma and Grandpa. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Funny! Their grandparents do love getting emails… but their great-great aunt and great-grandparents are so very, very excited to get something in the mail with child handwriting on it…. it makes me feel bad that we don’t do it more often.

  13. jmmcdowell says:

    I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have had living great grandparents! My grandparents were all in their 70s when my arrival surprised everyone. 😉

    Giving up chocolate or wine for Lent? Oh, wow, I admire you for even trying something like that. But I love the idea of adding something instead that will bring a smile or fond memories to others. That was a wonderful idea—even if the concept of snail mail is a foreign one to most youngsters. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, I’m sure there are benefits to being the youthful surprise, too, JM! ; ) My kids are the only kids of their generation in the family, and they keep asking the aunts and uncles to please have some cousins. ; )

  14. Amy Mak says:

    That’s so funny – and amazing(!) that our kids don’t know how to write letters. I was also appalled that my daughter did not know how to address a letter because she’d never done it either! So strange…and isn’t it the best (hyperbole 🙂 when you get a hand-written card in the mail??? Good luck with lent…racing season is almost here!

  15. 4amWriter says:

    They teach letter writing at my kids’ school. Plus they have a “mail delivery” system where you can write a letter to a friend in another class, fold it and address it properly, and then it gets delivered to the recipient.

    I love what your kids are doing at home, and I think it’s a riot that your daughter expected her letter would be delivered right away.

    Good luck with lent!

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, I love the idea of delivering letters to other kids in the school. What a fun idea!

      It’s amazing how just a few short minutes of letter writing can bring a smile to people’s faces a few days later.

  16. So nice to be back in your world. Had a really busy time and haven’t got to any blogs for a while. I love the idea of taking something on, rather than giving up. I had a big row on pancake day and spent the evening sulking on the sofa, so if felt as if I did anything for Lent I would keep reliving that moment. So I’m ignoring it this year!!

    • annewoodman says:

      I understand completely about having a busy time, Gabriela! I hope things are better in your world now. ; )

      • Still busy – and annoyingly I’ve just realised that I’ve stopped being notified if anyone replies to my comments. I was just wondering if you’d been offline for a bit when i hadn’t heard back from you, but here is your reply. Any suggestions?

  17. Ravena Guron says:

    I don’t get snail mail letters, though ever since I saw them used in “Pride and Prejudice” (the BBC 6 hour version with Colin Firth :D) I love the idea of them. Once though, I offered to cut my elderly next door neighbour’s grass and about a week later I got a card from her daughter thanking me for making sure she’s alright. There’s something SPECIAL about snail mail, because it feels as though someone’s taken time over it, you know? Or is it just me? 😀

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